Steve Curtis is the flavour mastermind behind one of the most popular booths at the St. John’s Farmers’ Market. He specializes in homemade chutneys, gourmet mustards, and unique jams made with local ingredients.
Curtis has run a number of restaurants and bars both in New Orleans and later here in St. John’s. In 2012, he decided to take a step back from the restaurant industry to spend more time with his young children. Around that time, he started making chutneys and mustards as gifts for friends and family, experimenting with different ingredients and flavours.
“Once you’ve been developing these recipes for a while you start to get a hang of the ratios … when people first start out, they often tend to go a bit overboard on one particular ingredient. So there’s a lot of trial and error in the beginning but it’s a fun process,” Curtis said.
Once he’d built up an inventory of interesting preserves, he launched Condiments by Steve Curtis at the St. John’s Farmers’ Market. These days he works as a Metrobus driver in the evenings, a job that lets him listen to hours of food podcasts, and spend his days testing out new recipes.
“This way I get to spend a lot more time with food, “ Curtis said. “There’s a lot of elements involved in running a restaurant business; there’s the atmosphere, the bar, the wine menu– the food is an unfortunately small part of it sometimes. What I’m doing now is one-hundred-percent food focused and I really enjoy that.”
Curtis’ bestseller is his Indian Spice Tomato Chilli Jam, which he originally created to be served on the side with curries. Curtis says he’s always pleasantly surprised when he hears that customers have used his condiments on dishes he never would have expected. Turns out people love the Tomato Chilli Jam on eggs, fishcakes, and grilled salmon as well as with curries.
Curtis is passionate about cooking with local ingredients, so he’s very excited about his new Seaweed Gin and Berry Preserve, made with gin from Newfoundland Distillery Co.
“For those mornings when you need a little bit more than just gin with your toast,” he joked.
He’s currently working on a Scandinavian mustard with dill that incorporates Newfoundland Distillery Co.’s recently released Aquavit. Curtis is picturing the mustard being used in a salmon dish, but like most of his sauces it could have a myriad of uses.
He’s looking forward to more experimentation in 2018 when the St. John’s Farmers’ Market moves to a bigger space on Freshwater Road. In the new location, the Farmers’ Market will be open more often and there will be a store where vendors can sell their goods; these changes will allow Curtis to explore making fresh sauces and dressings for his customers.
“Everything I make now is either pickled or preserved and canned so that it has a shelf life. When the new market gets on the go, I’ll be looking at doing fresh sauces with more delicate ingredients that aren’t really appropriate for the high-heat canning process,” Curtis explained. “It’s going to be a lot of fun when the new Market starts up.”